Volume 76, Number 52 | May 23 -29, 2007

Woman jumps to death after leaving hospital

By Albert Amateau

Just hours after she walked out of St. Vincent’s Hospital, where police had brought her after rescuing her from a suicide attempt in her Village apartment, Leslie Berkman Johnston jumped to her death on Wednesday morning May 16.

Some of her friends and neighbors at The Cambridge, at 175 W. 13th St., had been concerned about her for more than a week. David Rothenberg, a friend and fellow resident of the building, said she was a former teacher who had survived a double mastectomy and a broken marriage recently. Rothenberg said he sat up with her the previous weekend when she told him she didn’t want to live anymore.

Neighbors phoned 911 and 311 for help on Saturday, and police from the Sixth Precinct responded and took her to St. Vincent’s emergency room a block away. But she returned before the end of the weekend, according to the doorman at 175 W. 13th St.

At about 5 p.m. on Tues., May 15, police responded again to a report that a woman was threatening to jump from a 17th-floor balcony of The Cambridge on Seventh Ave. S. at the southeast corner of 13th St. Police were able to pull Johnston away from the edge and again took her to St. Vincent’s.

“She came back around 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday morning and went up to her apartment,” the doorman said. “She came down about an hour or so later, looked around outside and then went back up,” he recalled.

Johnston jumped from her apartment and fell to her death on Seventh Ave. S. at about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

In a letter to all residents of the building, Bruce Garrison, president of The Cambridge Owners Corp., said her death could have been prevented.

“Our staff and the New York City Police Department did everything in their power to save Leslie from an act of desperation…. Our neighbor to the south, St. Vincent’s Hospital, however, appears to have been grossly negligent in their care of Leslie after she was admitted for observation and treatment late Tuesday afternoon. They seem to have allowed her to keep her clothes and failed to keep an eye on her during her time of great distress. It appears that as a result she was able to dress and walk out of the hospital early Wednesday morning,” the letter says.

St. Vincent’s said on May 22 that a broad investigation of hospital policy was initiated in the wake of the event.

“St. Vincent’s Hospital and staff are saddened by the unfortunate events that took place. Our deepest sympathy is with her family and friends during this painful time. Immediately after the event, we initiated a broad investigation of the matter. We have reviewed our policy and procedures with our emergency department staff in order to maximize patient safety,” said Michael Fagan, a spokesperson for the hospital.

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